The Timbers Army fills the north end of Jeld-Wenn Field for every Portland home game.
MLS News: Do You Love MLS? Book a Trip to Portland. Now!
I wasn't sure what to expect. OK, that's not true. I knew to expect – rain. I was heading to Portland in the winter, after all. Beyond that, this trip was destined to be a totally new experience.
When my son and I decided to plan a working trip to cover an MLS First Kick game during opening weekend, I asked him where he'd most like to go. The Home Depot Center is our "home away from home," and the LA Galaxy have a special place in our hearts. However, when I gave my 13-year-old the entire MLS opening weekend to choose from, he didn't hesitate: "PORTLAND TIMBERS!" He went on to tell me about the fans and the stadium, with their legendary atmosphere and spirit. We were Portland-bound to watch the Timbers take on Philadelphia Union.
The Portland Timbers, with decades of rich Pacific Northwest history, have developed a game atmosphere that needs to be experienced by every MLS fan. The intimate yet electric atmosphere is palpable upon arriving at the front gate at Jeld-Wen Field. Fans fill the stands to capacity, with the thousands-strong "Timbers Army" swarming the entire North end of the stadium.
|In Portland this is considered typical from the rabid Timbers fans.
|| Timber Joey slices another section from the Goal Log following a Timbers score.
On this opening day, just as on opening day 2011, the Timbers Army sang the Star Spangled Banner, filling the air with American pride more effectively than any pop starlet or yesteryear singing icon could. As game time approached, the Timbers' mascot began his circuit around the field beneath the Timbers faithful. Timber Joey doesn't wear a puffy costume or prance around the stadium energizing the crowd with spastic antics. No, he wears jeans, sturdy leather suspenders, a hard hat and steel-toed work boots, and carries a 5ft chainsaw.
As the players take the field, the Timbers Army begins their game as well. No seat is ever used in the North end of Jeld-Wen Field. The Timbers Army never sits. The Army stands from whistle-to-whistle and beyond, chanting, singing, dancing, and cheering their beloved Timbers in perfectly choreographed unison.
The Army describes itself this way: "Part carnival, part mosh pit, part revival meeting, part Christmas morning, filled with people from every part of the community and every walk of life, the Timbers Army turns each game into a celebration of its love of Portland, of soccer, and of the Timbers."
The halftime whistle blew with the game scoreless. The rain was constant and unforgiving. We sought refuge in the media workroom in the catwalks high above the crowd, where the Timbers staff had laid out of a buffet of sirloin steak, shrimp, mashed potatoes, and chocolate-covered bacon. After a quick equipment check and a few moments cuddling with warm cups of hot tea, we squared our shoulders and headed back into the rain, down to the field for what we knew would be a great 45minutes of soccer. The referee began the second half, and the rain came down harder – seemingly energizing the Timbers faithful even more. Goals were coming, and everyone in the stadium could sense it.
|Portand Timbers celebrate with slices of the Goal Log following their 3-1 victory.
The Union’s Gabriel Gómez opened up the scoring in the 51st minute, but Portland responded quickly. Andrew JeanBaptiste (a rookie Generation Adidas player out of UConn) scored his first MLS goal to equalize for the Timbers. Timber Joey made his way over to the large evergreen log behind the North goal to resume the long-standing Portland tradition of "The Goal Log.”
With the crowd practically drowning out the sound of his enormous chainsaw, Timber Joey slices off a slab of log after every Timbers goal, and that slab is presented to the goal scorer after the game. Timber Joey finished his cut, and the slab hit the ground with a reverberating thud. The clouds and the proverbial floodgates had opened.
Rain began to pour down in buckets, and twelve minutes later, the Scotsman Kris Boyd scored his first MLS goal to give Portland the lead. In the 76th minute Kalif Alhassan delivered the death blow to the Union with an amazing chipped shot up and over the Union defenders to give the Timbers their 3-1 victory. Timber Joey had three Goal Slabs for the rain-soaked goal scorers.
After the final whistle blew, the Timbers players completed a victory lap around the stadium, cheering and thanking their faithful fans for an amazing show of support. The team ended up at the Goal Log, where Timber Joey presented each goal slab in order: Jean-Baptiste, Boyd, and Alhassan each getting their Goal Slabs and raising them overhead to celebrate with the Timbers Army in front of them.
We returned to our car, and before our clothes had even begun to dry, we were already planning our next trip back to Portland. If you love soccer, you need to plan a trip to Portland to experience the Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Rain or shine (preferably shine for me next time), it's an unforgettable experience.
All photo credit: Carey Schumacher of Barefoot Memories
Related Article: Timbers’ Gleeson Called Up to New Zealand U-23 National Team